FACE TO FACE INTERVIEW WITH A RETIRED FREEDOM FIGHTER ON 21 ANNIVERSARY OF NAMIBIA

Mr.Lifasi Bonny Kapalingo , retired freedom fighter speaks to Caprivi Vision

By Risco Lumamezi

In the wake to celebrate Namibia’s independence birth day , The Caprivi Vision newspaper caught up with a retired Captain in the Namibia Defence Force and a freedom fighter during liberation struggle of Namibia, Mr.Lifasi Bonny Kapalingo .

Namibia turns 21 years old of independence on 21 March 2011, what does it mean to Caprivi and Namibia in general ?

It is great to be in an independent Nation, I am one of those people who fought for independence, and now that the Namibian people are independent for 21 years, I am very proud of my contribution that the independence we fought for has been achieved and maintained for 21years in an environment of peace and stability. We fought for independence and you know the suffering that were here, our natural resources were been exploited by the foreigners, our people were tortured and killed, now that we are independent its very grateful because everybody is happy although we still have challenges as we are talking of political independence, we are still economically dependent maybe in the sense that the commanding heads of economy is still controlled by foreign multinational co- operations. That is the problem we have. I am happy that the government is fighting hard in that front for the nation to be economically independent.

When did you go to exile and why?

I was born at Singalamwe on the 12th of April 1954; I left the country at a tender age. I left with my parents and settled at an area called Imusho where I grew up , I did my Primary School there, from 1964 to 1970 that from Grade 1 to Grade 7 and i went to that country up to 1978 when I joined SWAPO in Lusaka at the liberation centre, that was on the 19th of March 1978, 1 year later I was sent to a place called Namibia Health Education centre called Nyengo, where SWAPO had a camp which was catering for the Namibian people with items of health and education, this camp was run by SWAPO, I joined a PLAN task unit in which after a year I was appointed as one of the Platoon Political Commissars, so I served as a Platoon commissar from 1980 up to 1985 when I was appointed as a Security Officer, in the same education and health centre run by SWAPO , I was responsible for security in that centre until repatriation in 1989. During my stay in that centre I did undergo many military trainings for example I was sent to the former GDDR (Germany Development Democratic Republic) where I studied politics and security matters, I was also sent to Lubango in Angola in 1983 where I studied politics and security matters including first aid, at the same time during those years I was also involved in adult education, I was a member of Namibia extension unit which was responsible for literacy and adult education. Therefore, I had time for military and civilian issues.

Any political groups you still remember at the time?

Where there is oppression there is always resistance, so since Namibia was under oppression by the apartheid regime, people turned to resist and in resisting they formed different organisations, e.g. SWANU is one of the oldest one in terms of the Namibian politics, then from there the was what was called OBC, Ovambo People’s Congress was more concerned with Ovamboland not the whole of Namibia and was against the contract labour system which was formed in 1957, a year later it was changed into OPO (Ovambo People’s Organisation) and still this was also concerned with the Contact Labour System, they have to abolish that but it was more about Ovambo land. Later the leaders realised that they was a need for a Political organisation that have a National character, that included the whole of Namibia or the South West Africa therefore the name South West Africa came into being, that means OPO was transformed into SWAPO. Now it included all other organisations. SWANU was still an organisation on it is on. Many people used to confuse that OPO merged with CANU (Caprivi African National Unity) to form SWAPO that’s not correct because we know that SWAPO was formed in 1960 and we learn from history that CANU was formed in 1962 when SWAPO was already in existence, so it was SWAPO and CANU that merged, but it was not CANU and OPO that formed SWAPO, SWAPO was already there. Its only CANU which joined SWAPO, since they found that it was one opponent and one country so there was no need to separate organisations so they merged on the 5th November 1964 to form one organisation, although there is a problem because according to the merger its stipulated that they were supposed to have changed the name of SWAPO but this did not happen. Therefore, however, whatever transpired why the name SWAPO was formed to accommodate CANU.

Where is CANU now, it looks there is no identity of CANU in SWAPO today?

That is what other people believe, but the fact is that, we have Caprivians in SWAPO holding senior positions these people came in through CANU, I think CANU still exists. The fact that we do not find any letter referring to CANU in SWAPO does not mean that it died. The fact is that the Caprivians are there and are holding senior ranks.

Why did you go to exile?

I grew up in Zambia, growing up in an independent country you become political aware of what is happening in the world, i was born in Namibia and being a Namibian I realised that the country was under colony and it was my duty fighting for my sisters and brothers to liberate the country, so it was a necessity for me to join SWAPO.

When did you leave the country to exile?

My parents left the country around 1960 and settled on the other side of the border and I grew up there at Imusho, I joined Swapo inside Zambia, in Lusaka. Imusho is an area at Singalamwe in Caprivi region.

Did you hold a barrel of gun?

Yes I was a soldier, a political Commissar, I had my gun and my own pistol and AK, I happened to be in skirmishes with my enemies, especially when we were travelling from Luanda to Lubango along the road I was always blocked by the enemies, we had to fight our way through to where we were going to.

Do you still remember battling in a war and how many people did you kill?

No! I cannot tell you how many people I killed, but I can tell you that there was one skirmish I remember at Endede area in Angola where we were ambushed and attacked by the enemy under the leadership of Commander Hashikoto and we fought and even captured seven and many were killed, so I cannot say who is killed by who as we are fighting the direction of the enemy and we managed to clear the area and we went through. Our recovery truck was left because we had to detonate the land mine on the road it is the only truck we left behind with some of the soldiers guarding.We did not suffer causalities.

Any colleagues from Caprivi or Namibia, as part of your friends when you were in Zambia?

I remember a lot of them, the first one is Mr. Francis Kapofi who was my commander and he is the Secretary to the Cabinet right now, he was my Commander from 1979 to 1983. When he became Director of Nyengo from a Commander of military side, I remember Reynolds Napawu. Who is an Ambassador somewhere I do not know and he is still alive. I am personally known by the founding father Dr. Sam Nujoma being a member o f Nyengo Camp Council and member of the administration staff; I was also close to the president whenever he visited Nyengo Camp. I was a Security Officer I had to provide security to all those SWAPO Senior Officers who went there, I am known to them. On September 1969 my Uncle was shot by the enemy as they where coming from Mayukwayukwa, they came to Imusho, one morning my brother got sick, nearby a SWAPO Military Base led by Mr. Kanamusakara, so my Uncle went in the morning to ask for tablets, apparently that was the day of the attack when the enemy attacked us with three helicopters, the freedom fighters ran away and there were at Bukaba. He was running in an plain area and was shot in the stomach and thigh and that is the last time I saw him, until in July 1989 during repatriation.

Do you still remember any colleagues while in Nyengo camp, Zambia?

Yes… many of them, even the time when people who were registering for War Veteran many of them were saying Kapalingo was my Commander, there was also Alfred Kapalingo who was my cousin and he passed away in 1981, he was working for the Secretariat of Economics, so he belonged to the Secretariats for economics and I belonged to the Defence and also there was Mrs. Kapalingo Esther who dealt with kinder garten issues.

Any secret of being a Soldier?

I cannot divulge military secrets, dead or alive unless with the Authorised person.

In 1989 you were repatriated by the United Nations, any picture after you heard that you were coming back home?

It was great that I was coming back home, I was really expecting to see what picture it was going to be after independence, I was not coming to sit down but to contribute in what ever way i could. When we came we got the UNTAG and we were taken back home, we were under RRR (Repatriation Resettlement Rehabilitation), so we were repatriated and resettled unfortunately there was no rehabilitation, if there was rehabilitation it was at a minimum. I remember when we went to Kongola, we were the first people to go to there, my colleague who was also my Commander Mr. Lucas Kulonda, he was appointed as a Chairman for Kongola Sub Centre, we found the teacher who was there as the current Councillor for Kongola Mr. David Muluti, who was appointed as his Deputy Chairman and I was a Political Mobiliser in the Centre, it was hectic for me because my Chairman was sick during campaigns of 1989, He could not campaign and Mr. Muluti was not allowed to address political meetings, the job fell on my shoulders, but I managed to help the Sub Centre, I was a Mobiliser conducting meetings all over Kongola area until elections, and that was a strong hold for DT A, but we managed we were not disappointed at the end.

In your view,were you confronted by opposition members during your campaigns?

Exactly DTA was very violent that time, we were attacked at Choi and Sachona ,we were helped by the Police, Mr. Vasco Muyenga Ngoshi and his team, every time we had a meeting we found them (DTA supporters ) with their traditional dance with the purpose to disrupt our meetings.

What did you do at the time when election results were announced?

I was very sick, I was with my mother in the village where everyone was a DTA member, so there where using vulgar language, but I was hopeful thinking that Caprivi, Kavango and Ovambo was not yet mentioned, I went to sleep and I was listening to BBC radio, so in the morning when they announced Caprivi I did not follow, before then I listened to Theo-Ben Gurirab because he was still our Secretary, so he was saying we are not worried because the big guns have not yet fired, he was referring to Ovamboland, I was very encouraged with those words , so in the morning the BBC announced that all 37 seats have been taken by SWAPO in Ovamboland, that was a great relief, all the people in the village went in their courtyards and now I was making my slogan in the village because I was the Victor.

In 1990 NDF was formed, what was your position?

Immediately after independence, the Kenyans who where in Mpacha Military Base were going, we were tasked to Mpacha to protect the properties with my colleagues, after we were recruited by the Border Guard Unit which was formed. I held the post of a Security Officer in Mpacha,.after being an appointed on the 20th of April 1990 in Grootfontein, so I held this post for six months, that Border Guard Unit was dismantled, then we were taken to Grootfontein to join the Army as a Lieutenant, it was unfortunate that I occupied that rank of Lieutenant for 17 years, not because i was a incompetent officer but some people within the chain of command wanted it that way.

Any other position since 1990 as Lieutenant for 17 years?

Yes, I was a Lieutenant during that time; I was first appointed as a Machine gun Platoon Commander Infantry Platoon third Battalion and I was appointed as a Training Officer responsible for Adult Education

When did you retire?

I retired on 30 November 2010 when I was 56 years old.

Why early retirement?

Early retirement is not an offence,, but early retirement is provided for by the law in terms of the Public Service Act, Act 30 of 1994 , if you feel that you have other things you want to do, then you can apply to your employer for permission to retire once you reach the age of 55 years and if permission is granted you can go, there is nothing wrong with that, so in my view I wanted to change from Military front to Economic front , I want to do business freely without being in uniform, that’s why I decided to ask for permission to go for early retirement which was granted, but I have found a lot of criticism from people that I’m against the government , I think it’s lack of understanding.

What type of business do you want to engage in?

I have many ideas that I want to test. One of them is that I want to go into Retail Business and open a Herbal clinic, not these traditional herbs that you have to go in the bush and dig herbs and start serving the people, but scientifically healthy, I can order them from Green World and Multi Level Enterprises, these are scientifically proven herbs that you can use as nuclides to nourish the body, because I believe that we have to fight against diseases, poverty by creating jobs for Namibians, by engaging in business, I must also contribute in the fight against disease, so I can still contribute to the Namibian nation as much as I was when I was a soldier.

Why didn’t you form up your own security company since you have served much of your youthful days in security forces?

That’s your idea, the company I have already registered is NedCo Trading cc, and if I see that it’s standing on its feet I might consider Security, Security Sales specifically to protect the property of the company.

Are you married?

Yes, I am a married man, I have my wife whom i ve been with for 25 years, and married in civil marriage, I am in a marriage of community of property, my beloved wife is Ngwende Nambula, and she is also a war veteran.

How many children do you have?

I only have one with her and unfortunately we lost one, but I have five children from a previous marriage.

What is your favourite dish?

I eat and drink everything except alcohol.

Any field of interest, sport or hobby?

Now I am an old man I don’t go for sport, I was doing sport when I was still young I used to go for Karate , Football and my hobby is reading.

Why didn’t you further your formal high school?

The are many problems, maybe I am from a poor family to continue education, those years were no provisions for free education we can find today, it’s circumstances that were beyond my control.

Others furthered their education in Zambia, why not you?

I was a Military man, if you were sent to go to school and you were in that department, because SWAPO was a Government that time in exile, there was a department of Education, Health and other departments were there… if you were in the other department and they sent you for education, you can go, then I was a Military man, I was sent for Military training and I am ok, that’s why am saying I’m saying not educated but I am trained.

Your level of formal education in Zambia?

I did not go for further in education, I did Military Training and Adult Education.These things were provided to me by SWAPO and I have to thank SWAPO for that.

Any final message you would like to share with the citizens when celebrating 21 years of independence?

I want to say a few words regarding the term independence, we are going to celebrate, but even our leaders acknowledge that it’s political independence, it’s not economic independence, I am very worried by that situation. 21 years now, from independence we are still talking of political independence, we did not attain economic independence in 21 years, that to me is very questionable, what measures are in place to attain economic independence? Why are they failing to attain economic indepedenence, we are independent, we are the ones who are making our own laws, but we still have a problem, we cannot attain economic independence, I think this is a problem, the other point is that it’s not only in Namibia but the world over, people have a problem with their governments, this problem is caused by Indignation, due to the way things are done, the whole problem in the world is resource allocation, how do you distribute wealth to the people, right now as I am talking to you, Namibia is rated as one of the highly unequal countries in terms of income, we cannot have such a situation after 21 years of independence, something is going wrong somewhere, we have got 51 percent of unemployment rate, that’s another problem that we cannot supposed to have at 21 years of independence, I am not saying the government is doing nothing, if you compare the 21 years of independence and 106 years that this country has been ruled by the Apartheid government, the pace of development especially in town has been very fast, in terms of infrastructure, we are saying SWAPO is doing it but, really we need to improve our people are sinking in poverty right now, we have abundant resources here, we have Uranium, Diamond and Fish, we have everything, but why are we having this level of poverty it’s a question of allocation of resources, how are we distributing the wealth of this country, we are not distributing the wealth in this country equitably, we are not… and what is happening in the world is that when there is high level of corruption people get disgruntled and their easily manipulated by what you call imperialist forces, they is fertile ground to come in, so something needs to be done on the part of the government in terms of poverty alleviation, welfare improvement, job creation and resource allocation, I also want to urge the government to see to it that rural areas are prioritised and even if we develop our towns, we are not solving we a creating another problem, bring drain from rural to urban, so it’s better to develop rural areas so that the youth can remain in rural areas, and these rural areas can be developed, so I urge the people to engage in economic activities that would be the best weapon to fight against unemployment.


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